…posted by Karna Small Bodman
Here at Rogue Women Writers, we are delighted to welcome as our Guest Blogger, the New York Times bestselling author, C.J. Lyons.
|Author C. J. Lyons|
I met this talented woman when we were both starting out as novelists with the same editor, and we both joined and attended one of the initial “Thrillerfest” conferences staged annually by International Thriller Writers. I recall being extremely impressed with C.J.’s background as an ER doctor, flight physician and expert who assisted police and prosecutors in criminal investigations. Talk about “writing what you know” — she certainly has a terrific resume and draws much inspiration from her varied experiences. I invited her to tell us about her new thriller, Gone Dark, along with some of her other endeavors. Here’s her story:
From Cold Case to Hot Thriller
Thanks so much to Karna and the other Rogues for inviting me to join in on the fun! I’m especially grateful as I’m currently celebrating the release of my fortieth published novel and the tenth in the award-winning, bestselling Lucy Guardino thrillers, GONE DARK.
Who knew when I created Lucy that readers would fall in love with this Pittsburgh soccer mom turned kickass crime fighter? But I’m grateful that they have, following her struggles working crimes against children for the FBI, watching her fight to balance the needs of her family while serving the victims she protects, suffering with her when she had a career-ending injury, and now enjoying her second career searching for answers to cases grown so cold no one except the victims’ families even remember.
In all of my Lucy thrillers the crimes are real—torn from headlines, often with only the names changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty (I never use real life people in any of my books).
Why use real life crimes and in particular cold cases? Because, growing up in rural Pennsylvania and then working as a physician in various remote regions of the country, I learned that there ARE places in this country where you can get away with murder.
Not because law enforcement is lazy or ignorant. Rather because they are out-numbered, over-worked, and under-funded. This is the reason why I established my Buy a Book, Make a Difference http://cjlyons.net/buy-a-book-make-a-difference/ charity foundation that sponsors scholarships for community police officers to receive forensic training otherwise beyond their budgets. So far we’ve provided 78 scholarships to small town forces across the USA.
For GONE DARK, there were several real life inspirations. The first came from an FBI press release announcing the search for a fugitive who had been on the run since 1971. The enormous amount of time that had elapsed caught my attention so I kept reading to see why the FBI would be sending out a new plea for information on such a cold case.
That’s when I learned that the man had been a juvenile when arrested and sentenced to life without parole. During a riot in Pittsburgh in 1968 a Molotov cocktail set a house on fire and a woman died as a result. I couldn’t find any documentation that this man had thrown the incendiary device or even knew who had, merely that he’d been arrested along with several others and charged after waiving his Miranda rights to an attorney.
The twist here was that 41 years after this juvenile was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in adult prison and escaped custody, the Supreme Court declared juvenile life without parole unconstitutional.
Which meant that the manhunt for this escaped fugitive was based on his sentence being overthrown. He could conceivably return to his real life, even after all these years living a lie.
That idea had me scrambling to research the juvenile justice system. Only to be horrified by what I found. Entire jurisdictions routinely incarcerating juveniles with no access to a lawyer or to their parents once they were arrested—and often they were arrested, locked up, and days, weeks, months later with no charges actually filed. This was happening even after the 2012 Supreme Court ruling—to the point where the Department of Justice had to take control of entire juvenile justice systems in order to make sure kids were granted basic constitutional rights.
(If you’re interested in reading some of these horror stories yourself, here’s a 2017 report by the National Juvenile Defender Center: http://njdc.info/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Snapshot-Final_single-4.pdf)
As that idea rumbled through my mind, I came across several more real life crimes that warped the concept farther until I came up with the “what if?” that drove the plot of GONE DARK:
What if a girl accused of murder escapes and spends half her life on the run only to learn that she has a chance to go home? What would she risk to finally get the chance to tell the truth and leave her life of lies behind?
And who would pay the price?
Like all of my Thrillers with Heart, the answers aren’t black or white but rather lie in the grey areas between good and evil—that messy, dark place where we are all put to the ultimate test.
Thanks for reading!
Now, after learning about C.J, her experiences, extensive research and award-winning writing style, I’m sure you will want to check out Gone Dark, available at major retailers — or simply go to:
http://CJLyons.net/books. Thanks to C.J. for visiting us here at Rogue Women Writers.
….Karna Small Bodman
What a terrific post, CJ, and such a thrill to see you here at Rogue Women. Congratulations on your wonderful career and skyrocketing success! Looking forward to GONE DARK!
Wow, CJ. The way you came to the story fascinated me. Thanks for sharing that. I often come up with ideas from a series of events, happenings or people I meet. Well done! Thanks for being our Rogue Guest Blogger.
What a wonderful concept for a novel. Can't wait to read, Gone Dark. As a attorney who worked with people who'd been imprisoned and later found to be innocent, I can think of few more emotionally wrenching stories than that of a possibly innocent juvenile looking at life in prison.
Thanks, everyone for having me! Tons of fun!
If you weren't writing fictions, sounds like you would make an excellent journalist. Congratulations on your latest novel.
HI CJ! Was on the road and just read the post. It's heartbreaking what you describe happening to juveniles. A speedy trial is a constitutional right. Looking forward to reading GONE DARK!